Design Miami announced this year’s winner of the Panerai Design Miami/ Visionary Award, and unlike the past three years, the award didn’t go to a person or firm. This year’s winner is the Mwabwindo School, a Zambia primary school project opening next year. Selldorf Architects, the New York firm led by principal Annabelle Selldorf, FAIA, is responsible for the design of the 175-student school developed by the nonprofit 14+ Foundation, which will incorporate a mural by artist Rashid Johnson and the Mwabwindo Series furniture collection by Swiss firm, Christ & Gantenbein.
Architect Peter Marino, FAIA, was the first winner of the award in 2014, followed by designer Yves Béhar and New York–based SHoP Architects. This year’s Design Miami will be held Dec. 6-10.
The Mwabwindo School will serve primary students in southern Zambia, located in a rural area where travel distance to school is one of the biggest impediments to quality education. This is the second school in the region developed by the 14+ Foundation, a non-profit committed to increasing education accessibility for rural African communities.
The building’s design is inspired by the tall, singular trees on the surrounding savanna that serve as gathering spaces shaded from the sun of the Central African Plateau. A large, corrugated metal roof canopy will cover a village of mud-brick classrooms arranged around courtyards and an internal street. In addition to the school for 175 students, the program includes a building that will provide housing for eight teachers, a community vegetable garden and playing fields.
A covered assembly space is left open to the local road, marking the entrance and welcoming students. In addition to serving as the school lunch hall it will be a resource for local civic gatherings.
The steel structure and roof will be assembled on site by skilled labor and will be constructed first so that building can continue during the three-month rainy system. Mud-brick classrooms are comprised of handmade, bricks fabricated on site, and will be constructed by local masons to provide employment and training opportunity in the area. Rainwater will be collected for use in the community gardens, solar panels will provide energy for the school and teacher’s housing, and a windmill will pump well water to the facilities.
The Mwabwindo School will provide an inspired place for learning, promote sustainable resource use, and act as an economic engine in southern Zambia.